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Burwell: OK, Rams won one; coach is moving on ..
BY BRYAN BURWELL Tuesday, September 28, 2010 12:15 am
As he stood in front of the cramped media workroom at Rams Park, barely a minute into his Monday afternoon briefing, Steve Spagnuolo did a rather peculiar thing. After 11 long, agonizing months without a victory, on his first victorious Monday in 330 days, the Rams coach spent all of 50 breathless seconds basking in the glow of his young football team's performance.
Seriously, that's it. Fifty seconds. I clocked it down to the second.
He gushed about his players, praised his coaches and complimented the fans who had cheered all day long on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome with a big ol' smile on his face. But it was almost like he was speed reading through the high-five line after a game.
Whooooooosh!!!! Gooood game.... goood game.... goood game.... gooooood game...Whooooooshh!
And then right in mid-sentence, Spagnuolo cast a quick glance at his wrist watch and paused for a quick second.
"... Having said all that, and I'll be reminding the team, it's just one win. It was a regular season win in the third game of the season and real quickly here, in maybe five minutes, we move on to the next one. So we'll be looking forward to Seattle."
He wasn't being rude.
He was just trying to make a rather significant point.
The expiration date on that 30-16 victory over Washington had passed, and just in case anyone forgot, Spagnuolo wanted to make sure everyone remembered.
What Spagnuolo understands is the delicate emotional dance that goes on as you try to rebuild a winning psyche from the ground up. When someone asked the coach what this victory could mean to his young team, Spags shrugged his shoulders. "It can go one way or another, to be quite honest with you," he said. "I'm hoping the guys handle it right."
It can't be emphasized enough that we still don't know what happened Sunday. Only time will tell if it was the start of something special for Spagnuolo's football team. A teachable moment, they like to call it in coaching circles. Something to point back to as that blissful moment when the lights went on and everyone finally and without reservation bought into Spagnuolo's program.
After the game, you could see how good it felt to his players to get this victory. You could see just how much it mattered to them, and how much different it felt around that locker room from a year ago.
"Last year we hoped we could win games," said Ron Bartell, "but we didn't KNOW we could win games. Now we do know we can, and we expect to win every week instead of hoping we can."
But expecting to win and actually winning are two different things. It's only the first step in the process, but a significant one. Before you can achieve the dream, you have to conceive the dream. So the young Rams have gotten the conception down and for one giddy week, they nailed the execution.
Almost everything that Spagnuolo had identified as a problem got solved Sunday, including the ability to maintain the running game from start to finish by an aggressive offensive line that dominated the line of scrimmage most of the afternoon. "When you look at early in the game we had a fourth-and-1 and then we had another third-and-1 play and when you look at in on the film from the sideline angle, you see a surge," said Spagnuolo. "To me, that says something about the offensive line. I still thought we could have been better overall in our third and 1 to (third and) 3. We were really good on fourth down. We were two for two there, but I did think that there was a mindset. I did think they stepped it up in the second half and we needed them to do that. They did a great job."
Now they have to repeat the process over and over again for 13 more NFL Sundays, and no one cares if they are going into this NFC West game against Seattle with a mounting injury list that keeps getting longer every day. I have said this before and I'll say it again. There is no one in this division that should scare the Rams. San Francisco, everyone's preseason favorite, is a winless, overhyped mess. Arizona (2-1) has given up the second most points in the conference (77) and scored the fifth fewest (48), and was blown out a week ago by 34 points. A week ago, Seattle (2-1) was blown out by a weak Denver team by two touchdowns.
I know what the preseason prognostications were for the Rams ó three, four, maybe five victories ó but those same predictions had the Niners with 10 victories.
So the reality is, circumstances change fast in the NFL. Anything can and usually does happen in this league.
If the Rams can score 30 points and beat Washington without Steven Jackson, how crazy is it to consider the possibility that they can find a way to defend their home turf against the Seahawks this weekend?
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